Mystery Bird: Male Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus

tags: , , , ,

[Mystery bird] Male Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Rick Wright.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
The challenge of this mystery bird is less to diagnose its identity than to figure out how you identified this fine male Hooded Merganser. The responses from readers point to two very different modes of identification. The first mode is that of identification in the strict sense: checking the visible characters in the image against those signaled in the field guides. This method often works, and it is the approach the vast majority of birders take when confronted with an unfamiliar bird (or an unfamiliar angle).
The second method is more interesting and more challenging. Experienced birders will not have “identified” this bird, but rather recognized it, drawing on preparation and experience to riffle through a vast mental file of images to find the match. Once you’ve taken time to learn your birds, you don’t need to “identify” them: you know what they look like, and even an unfamiliar view such as this one presents the bird in a way that it is unmistakable.
I’m often asked how to take “the next step” in birding. This is it: learn the book, then learn the bird. You will impress yourself with the depth of your knowledge — and the ease with which so many “mysteries” unravel
Review all mystery birds to date.


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
This entry was posted in Birding, Mystery Birds and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Male Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus

  1. Nate says:

    Hooded Merganser.
    The chestnut flanks and the big ole white patch on the head tell that tale.

  2. Yeah; Hooded Merganser is what I ended up with, too. I started off wondering “Harlequin Duck?”, but couldn’t make that bird match what I was seeing in the picture. But some flipping through Sibley left me with the adult male Hooded Merganser matching the head, and then the chestnut and the white streaks on the wings sealed the deal.

  3. Patrick says:

    Definitely a “Hoodie”.

  4. JohnB says:

    A Hooded Merganser it is. Those white and black tertials and chestnut flanks couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.